By Brendan Krovatin
In my continuing exploration of modern R&B, rap and soul, I only recently came across the artist Miguel. He was actually recommended to me by a friend, who suggested that my affinity for Frank Ocean’s music would easily translate over to a liking for Miguel.
Miguel Jontel Pimentel, was signed to Jive Records in 2007. His first album came out in 2010, entitled “All I Want Is You,” and was a sleeper hit and eventually ended up selling well for a debut album. After going on tour with Usher and Trey Songz for a year, he released “Kaleidscope Dream” in October 2012.
This album really blew me away when I listened to it. With sweeping strings, cool R&B back beats and addicting synth hooks, “Kaleidoscope Dream” is a melting pot of musical styles and themes and an exploration of ability rather than a comfortable, formulaic approach to music.
Miguel’s style is extremely hard to define. On songs such as “Adorn,” he sounds eerily like Marvin Gaye, and the song has clear influences from some of Gaye’s later hits such as “Sexual Healing” and “Let’s Get It On.”
Jump to the next track, “Don’t Look Back” and the feel totally changes. With crashing drums and driving synthesizers, the song immediately draws you in. But the verse lies back a little with a beat that feels very old and is reminiscent of jazz. Finally the song closes with Miguel singing the first verse of the Zombies 1969 song, “Time of the Season.”
If this is not enough variety, Miguel has a few songs that rely heavily on driving rhythmic guitar tracks such as “Do You…,” “Arch & Point” and “P**** is Mine.” On these songs in particular, Miguel reminds me more of singers who transcend the genre lines of R&B and Rock, like Prince.
When he needs to, he has a nice growl. These songs also tend to remind me a bit of what Bruno Mars has looked to achieve, though never reaching quite the same diverse ability of Miguel.
“Kaleidoscope Dream” is an album focused on youth and young manhood. Most of these songs center on insecurities, especially when it comes to sex and love. There is also a hint of the angst most notably present on albums like “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen.
In the song “Use Me,” Miguel speaks of his desire to have sex with the lights on, because he is racked with self consciousness about his first time. The lyrics, although probably too raunchy to reproduce here, rely on both poetic and literal phrases to describe sex, the former being something rare in artists these days. In the same poetic vein as “Use Me,” “Do You…” asks a series of questions that reflect the desire for youth and the way these desires clashes with our longings for more adult things.
In a live performance of the song, Miguel said the song is an ode to all of the vices and sensibilities that we, as people, have. The song builds into a crescendo with swimming backing vocals reminiscent of bands like the Eagles.
Finally, in the song “The Thrill,” we see the angst and excitement that comes with this time in our lives. It’s about driving around, going to parties, causing trouble and capturing the moments that make up a lifetime. The chorus rings over and over again “I can’t wait.”
Miguel’s album makes me feel much like I felt about Frank Ocean’s album “Channel Orange.” “Kaleidoscope Dream” is a conglomerate of styles, recalling the past while also moving music onto new paths and in new directions. It is about more than a good beat and it looks to move beyond the blatantly obvious and gauche ways new artists have of describing love and angst.
If Miguel continues to release albums like this, he will easily come to represent a new era in music alongside Frank Ocean.